The king, James I, held up well. Not so
the Pilgrim whose vinyl face has split.
His mice-gnawed legs, still wearing blue knee breeches,
are bent in a motionless jig. They are going
cheap, these wax-museum figures, former stars
of dioramas depicting the Plymouth story.
I knew them. Posed
among plastic turkeys and artificial snow, they guided me
to an honest childhood fascination
with early America. Now, at the parking-lot sale,
the Wampanoag man dressed in buckskins
gazes past traffic. He's disenchanted.
My old thinking embarrasses me. Those Pilgrims—
their purposeful gardens failing, their forest fear,
their exertions of biblical faith—moved me.
I didn't notice—one Pilgrim face was modeled
on Elizabeth Taylor, another on Ringo Starr—
yet I sensed their glamour. In starvation, despair,
they stayed handsome. History became them.
I am starting to understand being outdated.
You smile harder. You realize you've taken a pose
you can't get out of. History moves past you.
Certain decommissioned Pilgrims
are headed to Halloween haunted houses. Others,
too dilapidated, will spend their final hours as firewood.
The Wampanoag man rides off
into the present, passenger
in an eighteen-wheeler, foil against truck-stop thieves.
At dark, taillights hint at ancient trails
tacking from the sea to cornfields inland.
The Gettysburg Review